Architecture, similar to computer programming, derives its purpose through iterative processes and thorough research; debugging the perfect medley of programmable code/space. Background processes allow the program to function properly without user intervention. Without these unseen assistants, the program’s existence is bleak. A program creates a digital realm where humans and microarchitecture interact one-to-one; architecture scales that same experience to the physical realm where a myriad of interactions take place. With an increasing abundance of architectures in our daily lives, a distinction must be made between microarchitecture, the foundations of our digital user interfaces; and macroarchitecture, the physical construction of space.
In a time when the individual is intimately tied to the digital world, macroarchitecture has assumed the role of the unseen assistant. We have arrived at a point in history where Western society is subsumed by a digital user interface. Contemporary macroarchitectural practice is no different. It is in search of the most likes on social media, researching the best hashtag, and producing a highly polished render. The digital popularization of macroarchitecture is at a tipping point between the importance of physical and digital space; an experiential threshold. Because of this, experiencing macroarchitecture is no longer limited to a given physical context or location, it can be accessed from practically any microarchitectural device. However, as of now, its access is limited to our audial and visual senses.
The latest technology trending in the field is virtual reality (VR); a simulation of a real or imagined environment. In this instance, macroarchitecture is nothing more than an infrastructural element (containing hardware, sensors, etc.) to the VR system; an unseen assistant. Since the user is immersed in a digital environment, their spatial awareness is removed from the built environment. The audial and visual senses are engaged, whilst the gustatory, olfactory and tactile senses remain grounded in the macroarchitecture that is housing the VR system. The more involved macroarchitecture is with VR, the more distant it becomes to its nature; the physical construction of space. VR does pave the way for conceptual and theoretical works, however, the output is still nothing more than a digital representation of what the mind wishes to experience or what it wishes would be. The problem with immersion into a digital world is that it is always in need of physical space in order to thrive; even if the physical space is not experienced. However, if VR is capable of competing with the physical realm at an equally-sensorial level, will the physical realm, aside from serving as an infrastructural element to the VR system, still want to be experienced by Western society?
Augmented reality (AR) is the only technological advancement of late that gives purpose to macroarchitecture within the digitally constructed. In this case, the digital and physical domains are fused and are capable of working in synchrony. From an experiential standpoint, AR offers a balanced interface between the digital; data, graphics, holograms, and projections; and the physical; apertures and surfaces. While AR does a decent job at including macroarchitecture, the abundance of macroarchitecture that exists segregates the digital. Future macroarchitectural designs will need to incorporate AR requirements, just as it includes programmatic divisions in the present. If these developments can be attained, the built environment will soon be seen as the advanced interface it truly is.
If VR triumphs over AR, macroarchitecture’s contextually designated importance in society will only be as important as the digital realm it has to offer. At this rate, the future of macroarchitecture could solely exist as archi-tether; a physical construction facilitating the immersion into a digital construction; a portal into another realm.